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Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 12:00 am

Optimistic to a fault

LISA “LU” CANNON: Aug. 18, 1984 - Nov. 24, 2017


Ryan Cannon met his future wife, Lisa, through an online dating site. “That was about three or four months before her cancer resurfaced,” he said.

Nicknamed “Lisa Lu” (short for her maiden name, Lukaszewski), Lisa had been a little over two years cancer-free at the time they met. When her diagnosis came, the couple realized they no longer had the luxury of time and decided to get married as soon as possible. “We lied to all of our friends and family,” Ryan said with a slight chuckle. They planned the wedding for the day before Lisa’s 30th birthday and she told everybody the event – held upstairs at Arlington’s in downtown Springfield – was to be her birthday party. Meanwhile, Ryan led friends and family to believe he was going to propose during the party. “We just wanted people there for it and we wanted the wedding to be a surprise. The reaction was pretty good.” The cancer had been re-diagnosed on July 17, 2014, and they were married on Aug. 17, 2014. They were married a little over three years and lived in Athens.

A lifelong lover of contemporary, hip-hop style dancing, even having danced competitively while attending Glenwood High School, Lisa danced her way into every chemo session that she physically could. “She would get so worked up and so nervous and dancing was her way to calm herself down and take a little control over the situation,” said Ryan. “There came a point where they had to insert titanium rods through her femurs because the cancer had eaten through too much of her femurs – there wasn’t a lot of dancing going on at that time.” During those years, Lisa started and ran a Facebook page called “Dancing through Chemo” to encourage others who were fighting cancer to, in Ryan’s words, “Take whatever life throws at you and make the best of it. If you approach it with positivity you’ll get further than you ever would if you approached it with negativity. Even when things are terrible, you can still choose to make them as good as possible and you can approach them with a good attitude and with a spirit that’s not just going to give up and give in to what circumstances are trying to dictate.”

Ryan describes his wife as passionate about life. “She was recklessly optimistic – if you could turn optimism into a fault, that was her,” he said. “She was completely unwilling to give up the life that she had before it was time. She was very determined.” For example, in December of 2015, Lisa had been in the hospital for an extended period and had been unable to eat or hold down food for 30 days. “The doctor came in and he suggested hospice,” Ryan said. “She was furious that they would give up on her before she was ready to be done. She made us transfer her to a different hospital and a week later she was eating and holding food down – she got two more years in after that.” Ryan said that Lisa’s determination afforded the family a lot of comfort toward the end. “You knew when she was ready to be done that she had fought harder and farther than anyone else ever would have.”

n addition to determination and optimism, Ryan described Lisa as very kind and sweet-natured. “When she was running her own business (Lisa Lu Designs) she always regretted that she had to charge people. If she could have afforded to do it for free, she would have. She wanted to give to other people as much as she could.” Lisa also had a passion for children (she had a young daughter named Torie who she adored) and Ryan said it broke her heart that there were kids without a mom and dad. “The last time we talked about adopting a child – which she took very seriously – was in October of this year. I kind of pushed that one off a little bit because I knew it wasn’t realistic but she wanted to provide something for kids, she wanted them to have a home. She was the type that, if there was a homeless cat she found on Facebook, we were going to provide a home for it,” Ryan said, then paused. “That cat’s name is Coco.”

Ryan said that because of her circumstances, Lisa had a passion for letting other young women know that they should take their own control of their health. “Don’t let doctors or anyone else dictate what you do,” he said. “If you feel like something is wrong, pay attention to that and get the screenings you need. Don’t let things spiral out of control.”

f you knew Lisa and have memories or stories you would like to share, please email them to lisalustories@gmail.com. These will later be shared with her daughter, Torie, at Lisa’s request.

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.


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